Borna Barisic, the Croatia international left-back of Glasgow Rangers, has finally come clean about how he was feeling playing his football in the rough and tough SPFL.
The weather is wetter and colder than his homeland. It was totally different trying to settle into a new lifestyle, being the new guy in town and living in Glasgow.
Last February and March, he was wondering what he had let himself in for. He was getting bruised and battered in matches, and seemed to lose his sparkle and his form the longer the season wore on.
When he signed for a giant UK club from lowly NK Osijek, they could rarely fill their 17,000 capacity Gradski Stadium, as coming third in their league was considered a successful season.
They are a decent side who live in the shadow of Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb and Hadjuk Split, who are the Rangers and Celtic of their country.
Did Barisic arrive at Ibrox with a small-club mentality? If NK Osijek gained a draw, the fans usually found it acceptable. Not at Rangers they don’t.
Barisic was picking up injuries in league games, and it was starting to demoralise him, as most foreign players only want to play when they are 90% fit.
This was a disturbing part of playing in the inferior kick and rush style of some SPFL opposition. Entirely different football of players trying to pass the ball about and not target your opponent for kicking.
It came as a shock to the defender to endure forwards intentionally knocking lumps out of him. His confidence got low, and it was having an adverse result in his downward demeanour at the club.
Opponents noticed this problem and a part of their tactics was to rough Barisic up and his head would go down immediately.
It worked a treat as his wide range of passing and crossing skills were subdued, and reduced him to becoming a very average left back.
He started playing the easiest ball and tried not to attract any crunching tackles that would hurt him, and add to his list of minor injuries.
Barisic certainly had the ability to be a success, but he didn’t have the same attitude as hard as nails Jon Flanagan or Andy Halliday, who the boss could trust to get stuck in and strengthen the full back position.
Before signing for Rangers, the immensely talented Barisic had shown so much ability as a potential world class left back who became an important part of the Croatia National side.
Praise to Steven Gerrard and his coaches for sussing the situation that was developing. He was too often on the treatment table trying to get himself fit for the next battle.
He admits now that he had lost some of his enthusiasm for the job, and wondered if coming to Scotland was a big mistake.
It was becoming obvious to Gerrard that something had to be done, to turn his player’s fortunes and form around. A head to head, honest conversation between the boss and player, thankfully, sorted the problem out.
A huge change of outlook sparked Barisic’s dramatic renascence into playing like a top notch Rangers player, and a significant resurgence and improvement to the left-hand-side of the team.
After two very impressive performances against Rangers in the Europa League qualifying rounds, manager Steven Gerrard was convinced he had found the best left back that his budget could buy.
The 26-year-old was signed for only £1.5 million, but unfortunately, he had a disappointing first season at Ibrox., after joining Rangers in 2018.
And all down to the following reasons: Constant minor injuries due to the robustious nature of the SPFL, a loss of confidence and form and possibly developing the wrong attitude.
The bottom line is that any top class footballer from a different country, joins another league where they play a certain way, and it is so difficult to adapt quickly and maintain their normal form in the country of origin.
When a player as good as Barisic struggles to adapt to the inferior quality of the Scottish Premier football league, something is wrong with our game.
Over robust silly challenges happen too often nowadays. Look at the head knock recently dished out to ex-Charlton’s Joe Aribo at the Livingston v Rangers game last month.
It was just another brutal and dangerous attack, and it makes you wonder what are Scottish referees, the SFA and the SPFL doing about the problem – nothing.
The best example of Scottish footballers mischievous ways of taking care of certain players – belongs to Rangers highly talented Colombian centre forward – Alfredo Morelos!
Some of the behaviour of our so-called professionals have been nothing short of disgraceful. Players kicking him off the ball, expecting to get a furious reaction and all to get him sent off – and the referees allow it.
A top lawyer could show an accumulation of countless recorded attacks of that sly off the ball skullduggery tactic. It would prove those provoked assaults on the Colombian were intentional, and the reason for the red cards, unfairly shown to Morelos.
With the constant accumulation of fouls not given in favour of Morelos in every tie he plays in Scotland, a decent judge could conclude that referees in Scotland have become discriminating against him.
In the interest of fairness to Morelos and the SFA, I am suggesting that Rangers accumulate a huge montage of all the different confrontations that Morelos has been involved in, since arriving to play in Scotland.
Trust me, the referees would come out of the deal in an exceptionally bad way. Some of their bizarre decisions almost defy belief. You sometimes wonder why the Scottish whistlers can deliver so many wrong judgements.
Could this unfair treatment against Morelos be construed as racism, the very thing the SFA are trying to eliminate from the game.
There could easily be a case against the league organisers, especially when there is video evidence to prove injustices are often dished out on the park.
The football law should be changed to include the part of the perpetrator.
They should be brought to justice for starting the clash that causes a red or yellow card decision.
Too often the player who is kicked, pushed or is noised up, is the one who inevitably receives the worst conclusion by the referee – this is not fair – and the rules should be changed to eliminate this bad habit.